In July 2004 Dr. Cole joined the USC Annenberg School for Communication as Director and as a Research Professor of the newly formed Center for the Digital Future. Prior to joining USC, Dr. Cole was a longtime member of the UCLA faculty and served as Director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy. Cole founded and directed the World Internet Project, a long-term longitudinal look at the effects of computer and Internet technology conducted in over 35 countries.
At the announcement of the project in June 1999, Vice President Al Gore praised Cole as a “true visionary providing the public with information on how to understand the impact of media.” Twenty-three years into the project, the World Internet Project, through its unique data on Internet users around the world, is the leading, unrivaled international project examining the ways in which technology changes our lives.
Cole regularly presents trends and insights of the project to the White House, FCC, Congress, Department of Defense, and heads of governments around the world. He has worked closely with the CEOs of GroupM, Ericsson, Telstra, Wesfarmers, and others. On the advisory side, his long-term relationships have included Microsoft, Sony, Time Warner, AT&T, AARP, CBS, NBC, ABC, CPB, PBS, HP, Coca-Cola, and many more as they learn to navigate the digital future. He also sits on Unilever’s (the world’s second-largest advertiser) Global Digital Strategy
In 2016 Cole was one of the founders of the $1 Billion Global Disruption Fund (GDF), a technology investment fund based in Australia. Cole is one of the members of the Investment Committee identifying innovative companies and those about to be disrupted, making investments based on his work. Under Cole’s leadership, the Center has conducted deep examinations of the entertainment, sports media, transportation, and banking industries to identify where the next wave of disruption will occur. More than just identifying trends, the Center works closely with the industry to create policies and make concrete changes that will keep them competitive. That work includes all five (formerly six) motion picture studios, all four networks and now streaming companies, as well as sports networks, leagues, automotive companies, and banks.
Since 2017 Cole has written a popular and widely circulated column on disruption, media, technology, and entertainment (www.digitalcenter.org/cole).